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PBBM reports to nation today

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READY FOR THE REPORT. A giant banner of the State of the Nation Address (SONA) hangs at the entrance of the Batasang Pambansa Complex in Quezon City, where President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. will deliver his second SONA on Monday. Joan Bondoc

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. delivers his second State of the Nation Address (SONA) today —a progress report after a year in power in which he says the country made significant strides as he acknowledged that his governance has a long way to go.

“That’s what I want to explain to people — that we have made significant progress. We can see the difference now, not only in terms of how the systems work, how the government works. It is also how we are seen or judged in the international community. That’s equally important,” Mr. Marcos said on the eve of his address to Congress at the Batasang Pambansa in Quezon City.

“We have done a lot of growth (and) we are beginning to see thesystemic changes that are going to be part of the new bureaucracy, but there is still a long way to go,” he added 

Mr. Marcos, who swept to power with a landslide victory in the May 2022 elections, stressed that his administration is working hard to reinvigorate the economy, putting a premium on the agriculture sector which plays a vital role in the country’s development.

His first State of the Nation Address, which lasted an hour on July 25, 2022, started on time, flowed without departure from his script, and was free from the expletives that marked his predecessor Rodrigo Duterte’s SONA speeches.

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But Mr. Marcos also presented himself as a leader who would continue at least some of the programs and policies of Duterte, who will be present in today’s SONA along with former President and Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in the VIP box of the Batasang Pambansa.

Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, meanwhile, vowed to follow the President’s lead when he pursues his goals from the first SONA to bring down inflation and unemployment.

While the Marcos administration is “not there yet” in achieving some of the objectives it set during the first SONA, it has made great strides in bringing down inflation, unemployment, and the price of rice in the country, he said.

He said inflation continued to slow down up until last month when it settled at 5.4 percent in June from a high of 8.7 percent at the start of the year.

Other lawmakers on Sunday urged the Chief Executive to look forward, speak the truth, and lay out a map to the country’s future through the SONA.

The SONA is “not just a throwback moment for the year gone, but a battle plan on how we can fast-forward to what we hope to achieve,” Batangas Rep. Ralph Recto said. “It is not a mere replay of the past, but a preview of the future, setting a vision so compelling that it inspires and unites the entire nation to work hard for it.”

Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda said the President’s speech should focus more on “moving forward with the task of national greatness.”

He said the task at hand is how to work on the basic ingredients of national greatness, to become “a country that is not merely trying to survive, but [that] is ambitious.”

At the same time, Recto said, the SONA should be truthful, “because if it is not, the people will not be on the same page with the government in the critical days ahead.”

Senator Francis Escudero said a SONA cannot be all “happy pills that sugarcoat the painful but must include some bitter medicine to be swallowed for the nation to be healed of its many problems.”

“A predictable SONA is a feel-good recital of achievements, the formulaic,” he said.

“But what we need now is a SONA that will make us aware, that will surprise us, by shocking us about the great problems that we face, surprise us with the bold solutions, and scare us about the price of inaction.”

He also told the President not to worry, because the people can handle the truth.

The people are aware, he said, that a SONA that contains only good news is avoiding the truth.

For every Filipino who lands a job, many more remain unemployed. For every business that opens, many entrepreneurial plans remain as dreams. For every hospital ward added, many more patients cram overflowing emergency rooms, Escudero said.

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III said the President should speak the “unfiltered truth” that the Filipino people deserve.

“During the President’s SONA, it is my hope that he will discuss the real situation of the Filipino People at the household level,” Pimentel said.

Among the issues that Pimentel said should take the spotlight during SONA is the high cost of living, inadequate income, problems with education, unemployment, and underemployment, and the ballooning national debt.

But while macroeconomic figures are important, Pimentel said the SONA should concentrate on microeconomic matters that concern and affect the lives of ordinary Filipinos.

The income of the typical Filipino family, he noted, is not enough for their basic needs and for their decent existence as a family of human beings.

He said those who are employed are not paid “living wages.” Many are unemployed and many more are underemployed.

He also stressed the significance of focusing on agriculture to generate jobs and food and to fight inflation.

Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri said the prices of food should be the No. 1 focus of the President’s SONA.

“The President needs to focus on availability and lowering of food prices as the concurrent secretary of Agriculture,” Zubiri said. “He should strengthen the agricultural sector and help our farmers.”

Pimentel said he expects the President to explain various issues of concern, such as the scandal that rocked the Sugar Regulatory Administration and the reason the prices of sugar and onion reached P138 and P800 per kilo, respectively, during the first year of his term.

There should also be an explanation why POGOs—Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators–continue to operate in the country, he said.

With so many problems, Filipinos must be united, he said.

“We need to get our acts together as problem-solvers. We need to act in good faith out of love for the country. We need to want a just, fair, and safe society,” he said.

National Capital Region Police Office acting director Police Brig. Gen. Jose Melencio Nartatez Jr. on Sunday said security measures in Metro Manila were finalized a day ahead of the SONA.

The NCRPO said the security plan for this year’s SONA included strategic personnel deployments, civil disturbance management, anti-criminality intervention, counter-terrorism, traffic management, and emergency response teams.

The Quezon City government is also set to deploy thousands of personnel under its Law and Order Cluster in preparation for the SONA.

Earlier, members of the Quezon City Police District arrange their riot shields in their truck along Commonwealth Ave. corner Luzon Ave. in Quezon City, to be used against expected protesters. Manny Palmero

The Transport and Traffic Management Department (TTMD) will deploy 800 enforcers to help man traffic on major thoroughfares, while the Quezon City Police District (QCPD) will assign 6,123 uniformed officers and the Department of Public Order and Safety (DPOS) will use 375 personnel to assist QCPD in maintaining security and public order.

To aid those who will need immediate medical assistance and support during the SONA, the QC Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Department (DRRM) will deploy 287 personnel from its Emergency Medical Services (EMS), Search and Rescue (SAR) teams, and other additional resources to ensure the safety of the public and respond to any untoward incident.

“The Quezon City government is ready to assist during the President’s second State of the Nation Address. Our goal is to ensure a peaceful and orderly event for everyone,” Mayor Joy Belmonte said.

The city government has allowed both pro and anti-administration rallies but reminds all groups to follow laws and regulations, and not to disrupt peace and order in the affected areas.

“QC is a bastion of free speech, and we value the right of everyone to peacefully assemble as protected by our Constitution,” Belmonte said.

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